Byron Bell

NFC Notes: 49ers, Thomas, Lee, Packers

Seven workouts has not yet produced an addition to San Francisco’s quarterback room, and one may not be coming despite the new 49ers backup being a former UDFA only promoted to the active roster this week. The 49ers do not plan to sign a veteran quarterback this week, NFL.com’s Jim Trotter tweets. While he adds that remains a possibility in the near future, don’t expect an outside addition to come this week. E.J. Manuel, Tom Savage, Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates, Landry Jones, Matt Simms and Kyle Allen all worked out for the 49ers. But the NFC’s Bay Area team is evidently set with a C.J. BeathardNick Mullens depth chart heading into its Week 4 clash with the Chargers. The 49ers’ chances of being a surprise playoff contender absorbed a massive blow last week when Jimmy Garoppolo went down, and Kyle Shanahan said any veteran added would not be a threat to usurp Beathard. The second-year Iowa product started five games last season, completing 54.9 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. The 49ers went 1-4 in those games.

Here’s the latest from the NFC:

  • The Cowboys‘ defensive fortunes have generally taken hits when Sean Lee isn’t available, and the linebacker’s latest absence comes at a bad time for the 1-2 team. Dallas will be without its top linebacker for a few weeks “at least,” Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Lee suffered a hamstring injury on Sunday. This latest setback involves Lee’s right hamstring. A left hamstring issue caused him to miss time last season. First-round pick Leighton Vander Esch now stands to see a more prominent role in the near future.
  • Dallas remains the favorite to acquire Earl Thomas, in the event the Seahawks trade him, Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com writes. Thomas drew a penalty for bowing at the Cowboys’ bench following an interception in Seattle’s Week 3 win over Dallas. The Cowboys have offered a second-round pick for Thomas, but the Seahawks still want more. The safety nonetheless heard more rumblings about a deal with Dallas on Sunday, though. “Yeah, of course, I heard chatter. People were coming up to me and saying a trade might happen,” Thomas said. “Even pregame, a couple Cowboys coaches came up to me, I don’t know if they were playing psychological games, but they were like, ‘You ready for the trade tomorrow?” He remains a Seahawk, but the situation’s become quite strange.
  • Thomas said after Seattle’s win he missed two practices last week to protect himself from injury, and he expects to be fined for the absences. This is consistent with a report that emerged pregame Sunday. “I need to make sure my body is 100,” he said, via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. “I’m invested in myself. If they was invested in me, I would be out there practicing. But if I feel like anything — I don’t give a damn if it’s small, I’ve got a headache — I’m not practicing. But I don’t want that to be taken the wrong way. I know I’m going to get fined. But that’s just where I’m at with that.” Pete Carroll said the Seahawks still “love” Thomas as a person and a player and described communication between the team and the All-Pro safety as “ongoing.” Carroll did not specify if this communication is regarding an extension.
  • The Packers are preparing to start Byron Bell at right guard on Sunday against the Bills, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Justin McCray is dealing with a shoulder injury, one the Packers don’t believe will be a long-term issue. However, Bell is expected to step in for the time being. An eighth-year player, Bell’s spent almost the entirety of his career at tackle. He has previously played guard but hasn’t worked there nearly as much as he has on the edge.

Packers GM Discusses Offseason, Bulaga, Lewis

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has been a busy man since being promoted to the gig in January. After having previously served as the team’s director of college scouting and director of player personnel, the executive is now hands-on with every aspect of the organization.

The 44-year-old recently appeared on a pair of Packers-centric podcasts, “Nagler’s Never Right” and PackersNews.com, to discuss some of his team’s offseason additions and his role as general manager (via Aaron Nagler of JSOnline.com and Jason B. Hirschhorn of NFL.com)…

On the signing of offensive lineman Byron Bell, and whether the addition was an indication that the Packers weren’t optimistic about starting tight tackle Bryan Bulaga‘s recovery from a torn ACL:

“I think moreso for us, we had an opportunity to add a guy who not only has started and played tackle, but guard as well. Having a guy that’s going to be able to compete with our group that has 40-some starts under his belt, I think that was something that was attractive to us…It was one of those things that as we moved on, we felt it would improve the entire group.”

On the addition of free agent tight end Marcedes Lewis:

“I don’t think that’s something we expected, for him to come loose. Obviously he had not only been a really good player for (the Jaguars) but an exceptional leader and teammate there.

“For us, I just think that we’re tickled to be able to get him. The amount of experience he has at that position, I think it’s really going to be valuable to us. The tight end position is one of those positions that it’s really tough for young players to come in and make an impact. Obviously, as much experience he has not only in the passing game, but as a blocker as well, I think it’s something that will hopefully provide a lot of positive things for us coming forward.”

On the fact that team president Mark Murphy retained the power to fire and hire head coaches (as opposed to the GM making the decision):

“It was certainly different than what I’ve been exposed to here in Green Bay. I needed some time to kind of process it. I think the thing to me that made it OK with me was the people. The relationships I already had with Mark [Murphy] and Mike McCarthy and Russ Ball. I think that’s what made it OK and made it easier for me. But it was certainly something I hadn’t seen or been a part of in my professional career.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Notes: Lewis, Bell, McCarthy

Not every late offseason signing makes the cut, but it sounds like Marcedes Lewis will probably be a keeper for Green Bay. The veteran tight end’s one-year, $2.1MM deal includes a $500K signing bonus, according to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky. Lewis will also earn another $500K bonus if he’s on the team’s opening day roster.

Lewis, a powerful run blocker, figures to do the dirty work while Jimmy Graham racks up yards in Aaron Rodgers‘ offense. The 34-year-old wasn’t expecting to be released by the Jaguars this year, but he did manage to find a landing spot with another contender.

Here’s more from Green Bay:

  • Offensive tackle Byron Bell also seems fairly likely to make the final cut given the terms of his contract. Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets that Bell will earn a $500K signing bonus on his one-year deal. He’ll see $850K in base salary with an overall cap charge of $1.712MM. The Packers signed Bell earlier this week, which could signal that right tackle Bryan Bulaga is behind schedule in his recovery.
  • Historically, the Packers have been shy in free agency. Under the watch of GM Brian Gutekunst, the team appears to be more willing to make outside additions. Head coach Mike McCarthy is in favor of the change in philosophy. “I think it goes back to Brian’s comments and just the conversations we had,” McCarthy said (via Ryan Wood of USA Today). “Player acquisition is a 12-month process, and there’s definitely a pool of players that come available at this time of year.”
  • Rodgers may seek a player option in his next contract with the Packers.

North Notes: Steelers, Packers, Vikings

When the Packers signed Byron Bell earlier today, most assumed it was for a reserve, depth role. But now Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press Gazette writes that Bell may end up starting for the Packers. Wood notes that there is concern in the organization about longtime right tackle Bryan Bulaga‘s recovery from his ACL tear.

Bulaga, the Packers’ first-round pick back in 2010, tore his left ACL in week nine of last season. According to Wood, Bulaga is unlikely to be ready for week one, and there’s no real timetable for when he might be ready. Wood thinks placing Bulaga on the PUP list and holding him out at least the first six weeks of the season is a real possibility.

The good news for the Packers is that Bell has plenty of starting experience. He’s started 74 games since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2011. There was some talk earlier this offseason that the team could move on from Bulaga after he refused to take a pay cut, but the Packers seem committed to his return for now.

Here’s more from around the league’s northern divisions:

  • It’s yet to be officially diagnosed by team doctors, but Steelers tight end Jake McGee appears to have suffered a torn Achilles in practice, according to Mike Garafalo of NFL Network (Twitter link). McGee spent last year on the practice squad but Garafalo notes that some thought he could make the 53-man roster this year. If it is confirmed to be a torn Achilles, his season will be over.
  • The Steelers suffered another injury during Wednesday’s workout when backup offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins went down with a torn quad (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN). Fowler notes that Hawkins could go on injured reserve, but if he follows the normal timeline for a torn quad, he could be back in time for the regular season.
  • It was reported yesterday that Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr had reported to OTAs after skipping the first few sessions. Now, Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune says that he “wouldn’t be surprised if there were some candid talks in the last week” and adds that the Vikings have a “long and productive” relationship with Barr’s agent (Twitter link). It’s nothing concrete, but it’s another sign that Barr and the Vikings could be inching closer to working something out.

Packers To Sign Byron Bell

The Packers have beefed up their offensive line. Veteran Byron Bell announced on Instagram that he has signed with the Packers. 

Bell spent the first four seasons of his career with the Panthers before hooking on with the Titans in 2015. He missed all of 2016 with a foot injury, but returned in 2017 with the Cowboys where he appeared in 12 games at left tackle and made two starts. Bell’s 243 snaps last year were the lowest of any of his career seasons. All in all, he has started in 74 games across six years.

Bell has spent the bulk of his pro career at right tackle, but also offers experience at left tackle and left guard. With the ability to potentially play four positions on the line, Bell could be primed for a supersub role in Green Bay. And, with Bryan Bulaga and starting left guard Lane Taylor off the practice field as they recover from injuries, he’ll get plenty of reps this summer to show what he can do.

I think it’s a heck of an opportunity for guys to rotate in there and do a lot of things now,” offensive line coach James Campen said last week (via Bill Huber of 247 Sports). “We’re getting (in the) team period 14 reps or 16 reps, but it’s the work we get to do on the side with them. Now, they get to have bags in front of them and those type of things. You move guys here and there. You use it as an advantage, because as we’ve seen before at times. You have to put guys in and move guys around. People get really comfortable with guys they’ve worked with. You try to rep a lot of that as well as looking at the evaluations. I look at it as a positive thing. Obviously, you’d love to have Bryan and everybody out there doing their thing, but be that as it may, even if everything was there, there’d still be some rotation and some things going on.”

In theory, Bell could even push for the starting right guard job as last year’s starter Jahri Evans remains in free agent limbo. As of this writing, Justin McCray projects as the team’s top RG option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Audition OL Byron Bell

Veteran offensive lineman Byron Bell will work out for the Jets on Monday, a source tells Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Bell has started in 74 games across six NFL seasons. 

Bell spent the first four seasons of his career with the Panthers before hooking on with the Titans in 2015. He missed all of 2016 with a foot injury, but returned in 2017 with the Cowboys where he appeared in 12 games at left tackle and made two starts. Bell’s 243 snaps last year were the lowest of any of his career seasons.

Bell hasn’t been a regular starter since 2015, but he could have an opportunity to unseat right tackle Brandon Shell in camp, which would put him opposite of Kelvin Beachum. Even if that’s not in the cards for Bell at this stage of his career, he could see some burn off of the bench at both tackle and guard.

So far this offseason, the Jets’ biggest additions to the offensive line have been on the interior. Former Redskin Spencer Long is the Jets’ new starter at center while ex-Lion Travis Swanson will serve as his backup.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys OT Tyron Smith Unlikely To Play

Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith is expected to miss his second consecutive game with a groin injury, according to Jane Slater of NFL.com (Twitter link), who reports Smith will not play Sunday night against the Eagles. Instead, Dallas will turn to veteran Byron Bell to man the blindside.Tyron Smith

Chaz Green handled left tackle for the Cowboys in Week 10, and was memorably beaten like a drum by Atlanta defensive end Adrian Clayborn who posted a ridiculous six sacks, six more hurries, and a hit on Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott. Clayborn, who had topped six sacks in a season just once prior to 2017, earned a spectacular 99.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus for his performance.

While Green is certainly due his fair share of blame for last week’s debacle, the Cowboys coaching staff didn’t help him out by putting a tight end on the left side of the line, or sending a back to chip Clayborn. Additionally, nearly every lineman in the NFL would represent a downgrade from Smith, who is arguably the league’s best tackle.

Bell, 28, offers quite a bit more experience than Green (84 career appearances), but it’s not clear how ready is to take on Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, and the rest of Philadelphia’s defensive line. Bell hasn’t been a regular starter since the 2015 season (and was mediocre at best as a full-time player), and has played only 18 offensive snaps this year.

Sunday’s tilt between the Cowboys and Eagles is the most important game on the Week 11 schedule, at least according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. While Philadelphia is virtually assured of a postseason berth, Dallas is facing a 25% playoff leverage — a metric which indicates the change in chance of making the playoffs based on the results of the selected game — on Sunday night.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Browns, Bengals, Redskins

Kevin Hogan will serve as the Browns‘ backup quarterback on Sunday instead of Cody Kessler, as head coach Hue Jackson explained to reporters, including Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. While the shifting of reserve signal-caller duties isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news on its own, Kessler’s demotion could potentially have after-effects. If Hogan shows well as Cleveland’s No. 2 quarterback, Kessler would theoretically make for a relatively attractive trade candidate. Only 24 years old, Kessler started eight games and completed 65.6% of his passes as a rookie. The Browns, clearly, haven’t been afraid of dealing current assets for future picks.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • While Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict‘s extension was announced as a three-year, $38.68MM deal, the specifics of the pact aren’t as impressive, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The only fully guaranteed portion of the contract is Burfict’s $3.3MM signing bonus, while $2.25MM annually is tied to gameday active roster bonuses, an especially hefty total given Burfict’s injury history. And while Burfict’s 2017 base salary will now increase from $3.95MM to $7.936MM, Burfict’s impending three-game suspension will ensure that he loses $1.4MM of that new total.
  • As part of the extension that will keep him with the Redskins through 2019, running back Chris Thompson has agreed to rework his 2017 salary, according to Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Originally scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.746MM, Thompson will now take home ~$2.5MM in total compensation for the upcoming season, but will also bring in a signing bonus of $3MM. Additionally, Thompson can earn $250K in roster bonuses in 2018-19, while $1.125MM is available in annual incentives during that same period.
  • Offensive lineman Byron Bell earned his third and final $150K bonus of the offseason by making weight prior to the start of the Cowboys‘ regular season, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Bell scored the same weight bonus (for tipping the scales at fewer than 320 pounds) when minicamp and training camp, respectively, got underway. Signed to a one-year deal in March, Bell will also earn a $1MM base salary, a $250K signing bonus, and $300K in per-game roster bonuses. The 28-year-old will serve as the top reserve lineman on one of the league’s best front fives.
  • Free agent punter Brock Miller worked out for the 49ers on Thursday, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link), but it doesn’t appear that San Francisco will be signing Miller at this time. Instead, the left-footed Miller was brought in to help the 49ers’ special teams unit prepare for Panthers punter Michael Palardy (another lefty). The 49ers will go forward with punter Bradley Pinion, while Miller — who inked a futures deal with San Francisco in January — will continue to hit the workout circuit.

Cowboys Notes: Whitehead, Lewis, Collins

Lucky Whitehead was unfortunately waived by the Cowboys following a case of mistaken identity, but the receiver/special-teamer had run afoul of club rules before, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Whitehead had been accused of being “flighty with the truth,” and was “unaccountable” with the Dallas’ coaching staff. Last year, for instance, Whitehead reportedly slept through a Saturday walkthrough and was left home for a game against the Giants. While Whitehead certainly could have had his issues off the field, it’s also possible the Cowboys are leaking negative information on Whitehead given that it was their lack of follow-up that resulted in Whitehead’s release.

Here’s more on Whitehead and the rest of the Cowboys’ roster:

  • The NFLPA is conducting an investigation into Whitehead’s ouster and before it decides whether to take further action, as Ed Werder tweets. Whitehead, for his part, is understandably angry about how the situation played out, writes Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “Let’s not sugarcoat anything,” Whitehead said. “I was pretty much being called a liar.” Now on waivers, Whitehead can be claimed by any of the other 31 NFL teams between now and tomorrow.
  • A Michigan jury has found Cowboys third-round corner Jourdan Lewis not guilty on both domestic violence and assault/battery counts, reports Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. Viewed as one of the top slot cornerback prospects in this year’s draft, Lewis fell to the 92nd overall selection following an alleged March altercation with his girlfriend. Now cleared, Lewis should be able to report to camp and compete for sub package snaps.
  • As part of his two-year, $15.4MM extension, offensive lineman La’el Collins will receive a $4MM signing bonus and $9.5MM fully guaranteed overall, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Collins will earn base salaries of $1MM and $4.5MM in 2017 and 2018, respectively. In 2019, Collins’ base salary is $6MM, but can increase to $8.5MM if he plays at least 85% of Dallas’ offensive snaps in each of the next two campaigns, per Archer.
  • Dallas defensive end David Irving offered an explanation for his four-game PED suspension today, blaming the ban on a “hidden ingredient” in a workout drink, per Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News“I started taking it after the season when you’re not working out with the team, you know, something to get my a– in the gym,” said Irving. “It’s funny, I thought I was hitting a second puberty.” Irving, 23, appeared in 15 games for Dallas last season and developed into a serviceable pass rusher, especially near the end of the year. All told, he managed four sacks and 17 tackles while grading as the league’s No. 29 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus
  • Offensive lineman Byron Bell earned his second $150K bonus of the offseason by making weight on the first day of Cowboys training camp, reports Archer. Bell scored the same weight bonus when minicamp began, and will collect a third bonus during the first week of the regular season. Signed to a one-year deal in March, Bell will also earn a $1MM base salary, a $250K signing bonus, and $300K in per-game roster bonuses. The 28-year-old is in contention to serve as the top reserve lineman on one of the league’s best front fives.

NFC Notes: Maclin, Revis, Newton

We learned earlier today that the Eagles, not the Bills, were the runners-up for Jeremy Maclin‘s services, which came as something of a surprise given last week’s report that Philadelphia did not have interest in reuniting with Maclin. Per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter links), Eagles head coach Doug Pederson claims he was not being coy when he said the team was not considering Maclin, but that the Eagles did not reach out to Maclin until the weekend, when they contacted him to gauge interest. However, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets the Eagles never really got into a bidding war with the Ravens, who ultimately signed Maclin and who apparently gave him “solid money” to come to Baltimore.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Cowboys WR Dez Bryant tweeted free agent corner Darrelle Revis yesterday and told him to consider signing with the Cowboys, leading some to speculate that the club could be interested in relocating Revis Island to Texas, despite earlier reports to the contrary. Nonetheless, Clarence Hill, Jr. of the Star-Telegram, citing a team source, tweets that there is “nothing going on with Revis.”
  • We heard earlier today that Eddie Lacy passed his weigh-in with the Seahawks, which netted him a $55K bonus, but he was not the league’s biggest loser this week. As Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes, Cowboys offensive lineman Byron Bell picked up $150K by weighing in at less than 320 pounds on Monday, and he can earn another $300K if he meets his weight requirements at the start of training camp and the first week of the regular season. And, per ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), if Falcons NT Dontari Poe weighs 340 pounds or less tomorrow, he earns $125K.
  • Panthers QB Cam Newton will not throw at this week’s minicamp, but the quarterback is still on schedule with his recovery and is expected to be ready for training camp, as Edward Lewis of NFL.com writes.
  • The Saints may be shopping Travaris Cadet, but Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune does not believe they can realistically expect to get any takers, so the team will probably be forced to release him.
  • We learned earlier tonight that Rams DT Aaron Donald could miss this week’s mandatory minicamp as he continues to push for a long-term deal.